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NEIGHBOURHOOD NATURE SCHOOL 

Welcome to the Neighbourhood Nature School. This is an online learning hub for students from (K - 7) to learn about the environment, gardening and growing food together, our local food systems, exploring nature through observations and curiosity and  sharing fresh and healthy recipes. A variety of lessons and activities will be added to this page and to our Instagram page on a regular basis. Students and families can collaboratively learn together while learning at home, exploring their backyard and neighbourhood.  

Our content is linked to our Green Thumbs at School: Food Garden Lesson Book 


SEASONAL SCAVENGER HUNTS 

SUMMER 

FALL 




LESSONS AND ACTIVITIES 

Access all the past  lessons by season. The current lesson will be showcased below.

WINTER 

Plant Life Cycles 

Garden Planning 

SPRING 

Secret Lives of Earthworms

Pollinators 

SUMMER 

Insects: Part 1

Insects: Part 2

Insects: Part 3


CURRENT LESSON

LESSON:  Winter - Backyard Birds of BC  

Ages 5 - 13 years 

Grades: K - 6


In this lesson, you'll learn:

  • Identify seasonal patterns/changes

  • Living things sense and respond to their environment 

  • Living things have life cycles adapted to their environment 

  • Plants and animals have observable features 


Curricular competencies:

  • Demonstrate curiosity and sense of wonder about the world

  • Observe objects and events 

  • Make exploratory observations using their senses

  • Share observations and ideas orally, or through written language or drawings. 

  • Compare observations with those of others 

  • Sort and classify data 

Birds play a very important role in our ecosystem. They help maintain the health of forests, help control populations of insects and small mammals and reptiles, help pollinate flowers and spread and carry seeds and they brighten our day with their bird song. 

Can you name some of the different species of birds in your neighbourhood? 


What is migration?

Many birds migrate in British Columbia, which means they travel great distances starting in the fall in search of warmer weather, to mate, and to source out a larger food supply as winter can be harsh. These birds include species of waterfowl, shore birds, raptors, and other birds.  Some birds migrate to our province during the winter from other colder climates  like the Arctic Snow Geese. 

In British Columbia, we are situated over the Pacific Flyaway, which is a migratory path. Consider this a flying zone for birds kind of like travelling in an airplane for us humans. Birds use their internal compass and knowledge to fly over this pathway which  guides them to different geographical locations.

Different birds are attracted to different climates and habitats in our province such as marine and pelagic environments, coastal rainforests, wetlands, dry grasslands, coasts, tidal shorelines, boreal forests, alpine tundra, and agricultural land. 


Can you name some bird species you have seen in the winter?

Some birds don’t migrate and remain for all seasons including the winter. Both the American Robin and the Black-Capped Chickadee are examples. Woodpeckers, hummingbirds, finches, starlings, wrens, sparrows, mallards are some species that are also seen during the winter season. 

Some Robins do  migrate, while the rest remain in the winter forming large flocks (from a 100 to 1000 birds) and locate themselves where there is plenty of winter berries on trees and shrubs like hawthorn, holly, juniper and crab apple to eat. 


When spring emerges, these flocks break up or say goodbye and resume eating insects and their favourite earthworms when the soil warms. They bird song is also very common in the spring. This is also the season they have new babies and are busy providing food for them. 


Source - The Cornell Lab

📷 Image of Arctic Snow Geese in Richmond, BC courtesy of Canva 



📷 Images of  of backyard birds courtesy of Canva 


How Does Climate Change impact birds?

Climate Change has a great impact on our bird population. It’s impacting their population (the number of birds), their habitat (where they live) and their food sources. The higher number of heavy rains,  extreme heat, deforestation, forest fires and ice sea loss is already affecting many species of birds.

Birds rely on the change in weather patterns and shifts in seasons to plan when to migrate, when to breed and  when to hunt for food. With the rising temperatures, even 1 or 2 degrees can have a big impact. 

Birds might have a difficult time finding nesting material or a home if it has been removed, flooded or burnt down. Fluctuations in weather can also cause more breeding of diseases, insects and parasites which can impact a variety of bird species. 

Source - Nature Canada 

How can we help birds during the winter?


For the birds that do stay during the winter months, food can be scarce. Birds like the northern flickers, black-capped chickadees, hummingbirds, dark-eyed juncos, song sparrows, house and purple finches. Make your yard or space bird friendly by: 

  • Avoiding the use or spraying pesticides or herbicides. 

  • Leave bird seed or hanging home made bird feeders in your backyard or balcony patio (far away from windows) and keep it well supplied. Make sure to clean the feeders and seed to prevent disease. 

  • Consider planting native plants or shrubs that produce berries and a source of food and shelter for birds during the winter months. 

  • Citizen Science - participate in bird counts or document the birds you see in your neighbourhood using apps like iNaturalist. 

Source - Nature Canada 


ACTIVITIES

Participate in a bird count (Feb 12 -15)

Pine cone Bird Feeder (K - 5)

Make a sugar nectar for hummingbirds (K - 5)

Backyard Birds Identification (Grades 1 - 6)

Go Backyard Birding using an mobile app 

Go Bird Watching in your neighbourhood or local park 

 

BOOKS

Nature All Around: Birds by Pamela Hickman 

My First Book of Canadian Birds by Andrea Miller 

Backyard Birds: An Introduction by Robert Bateman 

Pocket Birds of Canada 2nd Edition by DK and David Bird 

Pocket Guides Sibley’s - Backyard Birds of PNW, Ontario & Quebec, Atlantic Canada

Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids: Activities and Ideas for Watching, Feeding and Housing our Feathered Friends. 

Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists - Backyard Birds 



RESOURCES

http://www.vancouverbirdweek.ca/common-garden-birds 

https://www.audubon.org/how-do-birds-cope-cold-winter

https://www.richmond.ca/parks/parks/naturepark/urbanwildlife/snowgoose.htm

https://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/fauna/birds/black-capped-chickadee.html

https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/winter-chickadees.html

https://pacificbirds.org/birds-migration/the-birds 


MOBILE APPS 

https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org 

https://www.audubon.org/app

iNaturalist

Seek





Pollinators 

LESSON: Identifying Common Pollinators 


What is the role pollinators play?

Who do they benefit our local food systems?

What types of pollinators do you know?

Head outside using this free online pocket guide from Environmental Youth Alliance to identify some of the most recognized pollinators found in British Columbia. 

ACTIVITY: Plant pollinator friendly flowers. During the early spring, some of the first sources of food for bees when they emerge from their nests/hives are flowering willow, clover, crocuses,  cherry and maple blossoms and skimmia. 

As the seasons change from spring to summer to fall, our pollinators need a food source. Remember to plant herbs, native plants, and flowers that have various seasons when their flowers bloom. 

Summer: asters, daisies, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, alliums, flowering herbs, lavender, calendula.

Fall: Zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers, rudbeckia, calendula, asters, sedum, echinacea, catmint. 



Insects (Part 1) 

LESSON: Insect Anatomy 

Gardens are filled with insects! Some are beneficial (good) and some are pests (bad). Insects are invertebrates which means that they don't have a back bone or skeleton. They do have an exoskeleton which is waterproof, tough and protects their soft internal body. 

Some insects pollinate plants, while others provide natural pest control and some, well they damage our favourite crops. 


Where do we find insects? 

What role do they play in our ecosystem?

Where do insects live? What do they eat?

In part one of this lesson, we will explore insect anatomy and learn more about the three different body parts (head, thorax, abdomen). We'll explore the other features and functions too! 


ACTIVITY:  Build a Nature Bug 

Now that you've learnt about the different parts of an insect, it's time to put your knowledge to the test. Head outside, go on a treasure hunt to collect sticks, leaves, flowers in all shapes, colours and sizes to create and build your very own nature bug! 


Insects (Part 2) 

LESSON: Insect Life Cycles (K to 7)


Did you know that there are over 1 million insect species?!

About 55,000 species live in Canada.


How long do insects live?

Where can you find them?

How many species of insects are there?

Some insects are food for birds, and frogs, while other insects pollinate plants, provide natural pest control, and some, well they damage our favourite crops.

In part two of this lesson, we will explore insect life cycles and learn more about the different stages of metamorphosis in different insect families.

ACTIVITY: Observe insects in a bug jar



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